LAFAYETTE -- After arguing they are not being listened to, business owners upset about a plan to build medians along a stretch of eastern Mt. Diablo Boulevard will have a chance to talk with city leaders before the project moves forward.
The city council has scheduled the May 16 public workshop to discuss the medians and other street improvements planned between First Street and Brown Avenue. The move followed a resident's request this week that officials meet with business owners and work out problems before moving forward.
The city plans to install the intermittent medians along Mt. Diablo Boulevard without the roundabout at Golden Gate Way the council rejected last October.
At a public hearing Tuesday, staffers asked city leaders for direction and to greenlight the completion of final construction documents so they can start soliciting construction bids.
Engineering Services Manager Tony Coe then led a group of business owners, residents and council members along the project route, pointing out the location of the medians and future crosswalk improvements meant to slow traffic, increase pedestrian safety and beautify the area.
Coe fielded both questions and complaints about potentially negative traffic impacts and landscaping maintenance, including an observation from a business owner that the city should reallocate money on landscaping instead of medians.
Mayor Mike Anderson later assured worried business owners and residents that the city's intent is not to kill businesses but to beautify Lafayette and keep it viable for businesses.
"If there are things here that we can do that are not eliminating the project altogether, but removal of trees or shortening or changing median lanes, I think we should have that conversation," he said.
The plans include crosswalk retrofitting with a flashing beacon system at First Street; landscaped medians in the center of Mt. Diablo Boulevard; and a pedestrian "refuge" area at a crosswalk at Golden Gate Way. Some business owners say the medians will block entries and exits to their properties and force drivers to make u-turns to reach homes and businesses. They are asking the planned medians be shortened or removed.
They are also raising concerns about the replacement of a center turn lane and the overall impact on emergency vehicles, and say the city is "searching for a project" to use $540,000 in Measure J grant money awarded last year for streetscape improvement for which they argue property owner input was not solicited. The city is also budgeting $45,000 in matching project funds, and two senior housing projects under construction are paying for improvements in their frontage areas.
Then there are the arguments that this side of Lafayette -- home to auto repair shops, professional offices and other service-oriented businesses -- doesn't need extensive landscaping beautification due to its distinct character.
"It's a utilitarian part of town," one resident said.